CORK football captain Ian Maguire believes that a win over Roscommon in Sunday’s final Super 8s game - at Páirc Uí Rinn, 4pm - can set up the Rebels for a positive campaign next year.
Defeats to Dublin and Tyrone in Croke Park ended Ronan McCarthy’s side’s hopes of reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals and, with Roscommon having also lost to that pair, the game in Páirc Uí Rinn is effectively a dead rubber, with just third place up for grabs.
However, Maguire is targeting a positive performance and results.
‘The first couple of days after the Tyrone game were tough,’ he says, ‘we had done so well for so long in that match but they just edged us.
‘It’s important to pick ourselves up and finish out the year professionally, we’re looking for a performance and a result.
‘Kerry last year are a good example, they finished the Super 8s with a win over Kildare and it helped them to build into this year, Donegal came third in their group too and improved in 2019.
‘What we’re looking to do is set ourselves up for 2020, there’s a positive vibe around Cork football now with the U20s and minors doing well too and we want to continue that.’
It has been something of a Jekyll & Hyde year for Cork. The league brought relegation to Division 3, but even in that disappointing campaign there were signs towards the end of things having improved.
Then, while five championship outings so far have seen losses to Kerry, Dublin and Tyrone, there can be no denying that the outlook is far brighter than it was a year ago.
‘Obviously, we had to park the league,’ Maguire says, ‘and in the preparation for the championship we took a couple of steps in the right direction.
‘We found our identity, which was a huge thing and I think there was more consistency among players and management than in the last few years.
‘Adam Doyle, our strength and conditioning coach, is in his third year and while there was a lot of criticism of our fitness in year one, things were up another level this year and we want it to be up another level next year, to build on that we’ve done.’
However, Maguire does accept that there is room for improvement.
‘There’s a lot of ability within the squad and people are finally seeing that,’ he says.
‘We’ve been playing to our strengths and teams don’t like playing against that. We showed against Tyrone for 40 or 45 minutes what we can do but then there was a bit of inexperience, we let them get seven points on the trot, similar to late on against Dublin.
‘It’s a harsh learning curve but it’s only a learning curve if you learn from it. What is so beneficial is that so many players go to play in Croke Park in high-level championship games.
‘People might have expected a short summer for us but we’re playing up to the August bank holiday. Okay, you’d prefer a game that had more riding on it but we want to make sure we end it the right way and have a stepping stone.
‘The way we’re looking at it is that it’s a chance to beat a big team, the Connacht champions and get a good win at home.
‘All we can do is keep looking forward and not look back.’